Last weekends, on April 23-24 Robustfest festival gathered hundreds of stoner/post/psychedelic fans in Kyiv. During those two days thirteen bands from seven countries performed in MonteRay LiveStage club. Among leading headliners there were quite famous representatives of the genre, the Swedish rockers Greenleaf, as well as Elder, the young, but very progressive stoner-band from the US.
Saturday, April 23
Three of seven Ukrainian bands performed on the first day of the festival. The Curse Of Wendigo started the evening with their quite saturated performance with the elements of so called southern-fried genre: the musicians skillfully combined classic stoner riffs, harmonica and some light folk elements. The listeners were gradually gathering near the scene, leaving their bar places. 5R6, the band from Kharkiv presented pretty heavy set list with the songs from their debut LP "Islands" (2015) being very well received by the audience. Their sworn brothers Soom brought the real storm, triggering emotions: the crowd eagerly sang already well-known songs, some hefty guys started slamming and chanting the band’s name. Moreover, the Ukrainian noise-rockers added few fresh tracks from their upcoming second album.
Between performances there were short brakes for sound check, people gathered into small groups chatting and moving towards the bar. Among them you could meet musicians, they were happy to share their experience and to tell some funny stories.
The guests from Belgium, the instrumental duo Sardonis presented very pert and aggressive setlist. It is the first time the musicians visit Ukraine, but later they admitted that Robustfest surpassed all their expectations.
"We’d played a lot of shows, but this one was my favorite ever. It was really awesome, everybody was screaming like "yeeeaaah!”, you know. And the festival organization is perfect, absolutely, no comments on that. We didn’t know what to expect when we came here. To be honest, we expected some punk stuff. But, man, it was awesome. I really hope we can come back", the guitarist Roel Paulussen commented.
The next quite rich and multifaceted show was performed by Dekonstruktor, the band from Moscow, formerly known as The Moon Mistress. The musicians’ transition to the boundless space of acid/noise/industrial rock genres was often emphasized by critics. Into the same exciting journey the guests went from the Robustfest scene, taking all those, who was standing in front of the scene.
The headliners’ turn was coming. While the musicians were preparing to go out on stage, Igor Sidorenko (Stoned Jesus) held a raffle with some prizes of the first day. The lottery with ticket numbers brought the lucky guy the whole set of CDs from participating bands. However, as it turned out later, the Greenleaf performance could not take place. Recently we spoke about how nearly was disrupted the Kyiv concert of God Is An Astronaut. The similar situation appeared in the Ukrainian airport with the Swedish band. The frontman Arvid Jonsson lost his passport.
"I so f*cked up! I lost my passport when I went out of the plane [in Ukraine — Noizr]. It was kinda strange. And I thought "oh, sh*t, man!". I realized, I can’t get in. They told me I need to go home, or I can call the embassy, but it won’t help. I was sitting in this terminal alone for five hours, three teams were looking for the passport. And then, suddenly this beautiful girl came with the passport in her hands. I almost kissed her, I was so happy", the vocalist said.
On this positive note, the band played their set with the encore, which lasted about hour and a half, unloading tons of energy, artistry and charisma. The fans heard the band’s famous hits and a couple of songs from the newest album "Rise Above The Meadow" (2016). Enthusiastic listeners recognized most of the songs from their first riffs, singing with the musicians, what made them very pleased.
"I like it a lot. Today was kinda easy, I don’t know. With Greenleaf we always try to bring people over, to set the audience, to make them happy. But today from the beginning I felt like, ok, people know the songs, they are happy that we are here. It was a little bit like surfing on the nice wave today."
Sunday, April 24
On Sunday, there was the second and final day of Robustfest. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch Dreadnought which performance opened the event, coming to the festival exactly to the end of Cherkassy duo Celophys’ set. The musicians, playing drawling stoner/doom metal, has just announced the new tracks that were enthusiastic greeted by the audience wiggling to the music near the stage. Celophys’ debut and the latest at the moment LP "Phobos Elevator" came out in 2013, so probably the band’s new album might be released in the nearest future.
The next band was Kyiv-based instrumental project Atomic Simao, whose music can be described as a mix of psychedelic rock and acid jazz. At the beginning of their performance, the musicians said that their style is a little bit knocked out of the festival’s repertoire, however, a lot of people liked their cheerful music. At the end of set, the bass guitarist Nikita Gavrilenko announced on April 29 the presentation of the video music "PolyBrothers" directed by famous Ukrainian clipmaker Victor Priduvalov. According to its teaser which previously was posted online, the new video will be a mix of live filming and animation. So if you missed Atomic Simao’s performance at the Robustfest or, much to your omission, you have never saw them alive — look for the seed this video and go to the next band’s gig — the musicians play extremely boldly and originally.
The range of the Ukrainian groups was replaced by the first foreign guests — the Minsk-based project Coat. Last fall, the band released the second album "Doomsdays", actively getting positive feedback from the genre fans on Internet. During the performance, the Belarusians dipped Robustfest’s public into stoner/doom metal drawling sound, with long instrumental passages and husky vocals.
Then Kyiv’s trio Pree Tone appeared from behind the scenes clearly on schedule. The musicians played shoegazing rock, and, following the genre, actively used different effects, giving a hard and loud sound with lots of echo and long droning riffs, covering the listeners with a solid wall of noise during the set. Despite the "young age" (the band was formed in winter, 2014), for the first year of its existence, the band managed to release three records, and now actively announces concerts, posts photos and video reports from the previous shows. Just an exemplary way for any music group.
The longest soundcheck of the evening delayed the Polish group Weedpecker’s coming on stage for 15 minutes. The musicians played a very vigorous program, but, because of the delay, were forced to leave the stage earlier, ignoring the crowd’s claims to go out for an encore. Summing up their performance, which was quite ineptly stopped right before their next track announcement, I note a great clean vocals and catchy music, because of which the public didn’t want to let the musicians go.
After the rush Weedpecker’s leaving, the organizers held a new gifts drawing. Another happy owner of the winning ticket was presented with a set of the festival bands’ releases and merch.
The fest program closed the long-awaited headliner — the Americans Elder. The rockers were met by the rocked and heated audience who in advance staked spots closer to the stage. The musicians opened their set with the dynamic composition "Compendium" from the latest album "Lore". With the first chords, the band’s bass guitarist just broke away, his emotional playing attracted all eyes and made the audience jumping and shaking their heads to the catchy music. The musicians played just over an hour, came out for the encore supporting by the crowd’s loud applause. The Sunday evening and the two-day Robustfest ended with the meaningful title track "The End".
What we liked:
Line-up. Robustfest, uniquely, is a festival, which is worth a visit, even if you badly knew the performing bands. One of the event’s advantages was a well formed member’s list. Each group has found its audience and, in later comments on the festival, no one has been deprived of attention, all received a dose of praise from the visitors.
Venue. Loved by many promoters, the concert hall MonteRay Live Stage two days was completely filled with the visitors. As always, at the MonteRay, there was too much high volume of music as it should be, but with capacity and other tasks all went very well in the last two days: there was no crush or fug, as at other venues. In addition, the hall is located at Kyiv’s center, which is also a bright spot.
The visual and information part. The organizers a little bit designed the venue, placed along the stairs the posters with the names of the performing bands. Amazingly, for each of the thirteen groups, the promoters presented a separate poster created by one of the six artists, who also put a hand to the creation of the teaser and various festival merch: t-shirts, badges and stickers. Everything was done with great taste and, I believe, any music lover with a big joy would like to get the Robustfet commemorative set. The fest tickets to and booklet with information about performing groups, schedule and other useful stuff also got branded design. It should mention the stunning merch of Robustfellow Prods., there is no need to talk about it, you should see it:
Organization. In short, "Robustfest is Europe". The festival has been laid out in detail, almost all of the bands went on stage right on schedule, the promoters did not forget about food, presenting at the event specially prepared for the festival burgers and cookies. But the "branded" cocktails were made in the spirit of the recipe from the Soviet movie, the cocktails were taken from MonteRay bar menu and their names just were changed. Also, we enjoyed the organizers’ respectful attitude to the press. The additional fest’s budget was spent to the special t-shirts that were given to photographers and badges for journalists.
The public’s feedback. Even before the end of March, the visitors have bought up the first batch of the two-day festival tickets and for soon — all VIP. Nice to know that such level events get a good feedback.
What we didn’t like:
- Loud sound at the venue
- Long soundcheck of Greenleaf and Weedpecker
- Weedpecker’s cut off performance
The report from the first day by Yuri Somov, from the second one by Anastezia
Noizr Zine thanks Philip Dobrov for the accreditation